Tampa to dye part of Hillsborough River green for St. Patrick's Day

Published Feb. 22, 2012

TAMPA — This is what happens when you elect a mayor who really enjoys celebrating his Irish heritage.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced Wednesday the city will dye part of the Hillsborough River a vibrant shade of Kelly green as part of the first-ever Mayor's River O'Green Fest on St. Patrick's Day.

The new event will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 17 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. It will feature a half-dozen food trucks, beer, bands, kids crafts and activities courtesy of local museums, and games like the "Potato Toss," sack race and a feats of strength competition. Admission will be free, though the vendors will charge for food and drink.

"St. Patrick's Day is an opportunity to celebrate our Irish heritage because everyone knows Ponce de Leon was really Ponce O'Leon, an Irishman," Buckhorn said in announcing the event.

The city will dye the river green between the Cass Street bridge and the Kennedy Boulevard bridge.

To add the color, the city expects to use about 80 pounds of a non-toxic product called Bright Dyes, manufactured by Kingscote Chemicals in Ohio.

The yellow-green dye is biodegradable, is certified for use in drinking water and often is used to detect leaks in water distribution systems, according to technical information on file with the city. The military also uses it to mark the locations of downed pilots during search and rescue missions at sea.

By comparison, the city of Chicago uses 40 pounds of biodegradable food coloring to tint the Chicago River an emerald green for its St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

Tampa's party will be co-sponsored by the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership, and proceeds from alcohol sales will benefit the partnership's efforts to bring programs to downtown parks. For more information, visit

Though the River O'Green Fest will be new to the Hillsborough River, it won't be the first time someone in Tampa has dyed a body of water green for the holiday.

Since at least 2009, the Tampa Attractions Association and Yacht StarShip Cruises have turned the Garrison Channel green in front of Channelside's wharf for its own St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

That tradition will continue on March 17, said Carrie Smith, marketing manager for Yacht StarShip, with a dye-the-channel-green lunch cruise featuring corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, Irish potatoes and green beer.

Richard Danielson can be reached at, (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.